Building on IT At Barton Malow

Phil Go, CIO at Barton Malow Co., talks about how IT workers fit into a major construction firm.

Being in the construction field, is there anything unique about your actual workplace?

"We just moved to a new headquarters designed by our internal architectural firm and built by Barton Malow, and it's a showcase of what we do well. When you walk in the building, there's a four-story atrium, and it's so bright - especially in winter, when we're lucky to get a couple hours of sunshine. We also face the wetlands, with a long boardwalk that allows you to enjoy it.

"The building was also designed with a telephony infrastructure that uses IP, so when people leave me a voice mail or send a fax, I get it in my in-box."

What are the most critical systems supported or developed by your department?

"One is our project management system. We have two versions: [application service provider]-driven and internally hosted. The second is our job-costing system, which is specific to the construction industry. Whenever either of those systems has a small hiccup, it's the end of the world."

What's unique about your IT department?

"Part of our IT strategy is to be the best there is in the construction industry, which tends to be a bit stodgy when it comes to technology. We just finished putting together a data collaboration system using PictureTel technology. Not only can you see each other when you talk on the phone, but there's [also] a second monitor that's a PC, which allows project managers and marketing people to collaborate on things like proposal development. It's impressive to clients."

How would you describe the pace of the work?

"Extremely hectic but fun. You have to do whatever it takes to get the job done, within reason. One thing I pride myself on, though, is I'm very sensitive toward peoples' personal lives. For me, work is not a place - it's an activity. You don't have to be in the office to get your work done."

How would you describe the overall culture of IT at your company?

"Somewhere in between casual and formal. A few years ago, Barton Malow was a very conservative firm, and people dressed that way. When I started, the IT staff asked me if we could go to business-casual dress, and we were able to do that. But we're not too formal - the leaders here are very approachable, and we foster an environment that makes it a fun place. We do things outside of work - I got married a year and a half ago, and I invited the entire staff."

What aspect of work do you look forward to each day?

"It's very rewarding when you introduce a new type of technology to a stodgy company and see the light bulb go on, even though it sometimes takes three or four tries before they say, 'Oh, this makes sense.' " What aspect do you dread each day? "The corollary - that sometimes it takes three or four times for them to get it. That can be frustrating."

- Mary Brandel

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